Four Poems by Deborah Bogen

Deborah Bogen

Deborah Bogen

Deborah Bogen has four prize-winning collections of poetry. The latest, In Case of Sudden Free Fall, came out from Jacar Press in 2017. These days she’s primarily a political activist in Pittsburgh PA where she writes songs, plays ukulele and sings in The Highland Park Mini-band.

Stilled Life

                    after a painting by Akiba Emanuel

When I am six you paint three lemons on a table,
a work in which the icons
of the Christians assert authority
You are recovering from the big War.
The long war.

In the unseen distance, the golem lies flaccid in a ditch,
a stake
protruding from its greasy heart.
There’s a lanyard of smoke and bone.
A ligature.
A manacle.

Night Transport

                       after three paintings by Akiba Emanuel

Akiba, in the painting you are living in
the train chugs cheerfully through the snow
as if soldier-clowns are not
pulling the legs off the accused.
You pick up red and carnival yellow, then
notice your daughter wedging
her body into the room.

Why is she here, hiding under the table
          — moving ashtrays and glasses around?
And why is the beige of the Bakelite phone
like a woman’s complexion
under fluorescent lights?

You remember Paris, soft light through old glass in the silent
studio where once you posed for Matisse,

but today there is Denver. There are wives and
daughters, and now these difficult
            and the swastika trains, and the night.

Night Transport 2

                                   after a painting by Akiba Emanuel

In your painting, Akiba, the yellow is not the star.
It is the moon being distant.
It is the moon being simple and circular,
shining blamelessly

on the disassembled limbs which are also yellow,
like bananas.

The engineer’s un-muzzled snout
points the train eastward where a crescent of yellow tracks
disappears into the convenient

How clear you have been — the angular feet,
the strange clocks
the train lumbering forward
unwashed by rain.

No one is clean. Nor are they mourned.
The machine eats.

Clocks are Ticking

                                  after a painting by Akiba Emanuel

In Paris and in New York.
They are ticking in Denver, Colorado where you have
gone to learn to be a man with a wife
and daughter.

It’s an experiment in new colors, in being a man with
a bedroom and a kitchen drawer —
a man encumbered by the enormous ambiguity
of paternity.

How fully you wish to create the world,
to choose moonlight
                        or ordinary sunlight softening
a cold beach.

But Denver light is brutal.
You paint the girl
as the woman she becomes.